Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye-Part 2

Part of a series of posts about my experiences on a trip to China in October 2015. The series of posts related to this can be seen on my page “Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye”.

Continuation from Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye

If you recall we, my son and I, were on a “hard sleeper” car on a local train bound for Tai Shan from Weifang, both cities in Shandong Province, China.

China has a wonderful train system. They have many clean, ultra-modern bullet trains that whisk you  efficiently around the country. For obvious reasons these trains are very popular and often fully booked well in advance. On one of those trains the trip from Weifang to Tai’an takes about two hours. The train we were on, a K series local train, took about 4.5 hours for the same trip.

We arrived at Tai Shan train station a little before dark. Being the sort that plans ahead I had made us hotel reservations in Tai’an (since we didn’t have train tickets in advance and James had to work that morning, I figured we might be arriving on the late side).

Tai’an is the city at the base of Mount Tai/ Tai Shan. The thing you mostly do there is see the Dai Miao (Temple to the God of Mount Tai) and start and end your trip to the top of the mountain.

Since the big thing to do is watch the sunrise at the top of Mount Tai a lot of people, probably most of those who got off the train with us, head straight up to the top, hiking overnight and perhaps renting a thick army type coat to bivouac in, watch the sunrise, then come back down the next day.

I like to take things a little slower, and, in truth, can’t keep up that type of pace even without jet lag, I don’t think I ever could have. Our plan was to spend the night in Tai’an, have all day Sunday to hike up Mount Tai, spend the night at the top in a hotel, see the sunrise, explore a bit then take the cable car and bus down and the fast train back to Weifang so we had time to wash and dry James uniform in time for him to wear it to work on Tuesday morning.

So it is about 6:00 pm on Saturday and we are at theTai Shan train station and need to get to our hotel. Being easily distracted I noticed this sign:

Can't help but wonder: Where do you buy real tickets?
Can’t help but wonder: Where do you buy real tickets?

According to my Lonely Planet guide there is a bus that should take us to the north entrance to Dai Miao, which is right next to our hotel. We walked to the various places where buses came and went near the train station but none of them were interested in telling us which buses stopped where and we never saw bus number 3.

James and I would not stand out in the US or Europe, we are both pretty medium: medium fair (hair is light brown\ash blonde, green eyes) and are mid-range heights (he is just about 6 foot and I am 5′ 6″) and medium build, but in China we stand out. This means that folks notice and approach us. Sometimes they just want to say “hello”, or make their children do so. Some people have wanted us to be in pictures with them. Even though I am an introvert, most of this is fine, and often kind of fun, since I like kids and it gives me a chance to practice my few words of Chinese. The attention that makes me nervous is when we are approached by people who want to drive us somewhere.

Buses go where they go and everyone on the bus is going to the same place. That gives me confidence when I am unfamiliar with a destination. Next, in my book, is the official taxi stand taxi, when I have clearly written in Chinese my intended destination I feel fairly confident, anywhere except Beijing, taking a taxi. Far, far below that is the driver who accosts me while I am trying to get my bearings (in a new city, I like to haul out a compass and map and figure out which way is North and the general lay of the land and the direction I want to go in).

Since we couldn’t find the bus, we were discussing whether to walk or find the official taxi stand, and getting our bearings. We were a bit tired since James had had to be up at 6 to get to work on time and I went along with him, so we were leaning toward taxi.

This is where I wish I was more savvy. We saw an official taxi and were headed toward it when accosted by a driver guy. As we got closer we saw that the taxi had a flat tire. I wonder, and there is part of me that hates being this cynical, whether that taxi was (and may still be) there as a decoy to attract folks who missed the official taxi line to provide easy targets for these drivers. Alone I would have pleaded ignorance and incomprehension, then gone back to the train station entrance. James spoke enough Chinese to cut a deal just slightly more than cab fair should have been to take us to our hotel.

The hotel, called Yu Zuo, was a decent place, beds a bit harder than Weifang, which in turn were a bit harder than at the airport hotel in Beijing. They were softer than the hard sleeper. The hotel was well done architecturally as a match for the Dai Miao next to it.

By the time we arrived, checked in and washed up a bit it was dark. We wandered out to see what we could see

…and find something to eat, which we found in a small noodle shop about a block from the hotel. This guy was amazing, he made noodles by hand from a blob of dough, thin, uniform spaghetti type noodles, no machine. The soup, noodles with beef and tomato, was absolutely delicious.

We went back “home” to our hotel to sleep.

Yu Zuo Hotel entrance.
Yu Zuo Hotel entrance.

Just one more quest: try to get tickets to return to Weifang on a fast train so we wouldn’t have to stay up all night blow drying James uniform. After wrestling with the CTrip website for over an hour (James went out like a light) I fell asleep after receiving an email that all was well with that.

This was my 3rd day in China. I just needed a little sleep.

To be continued…

Sleeping Dragon Slowly Opens One Eye Part 3

 

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